Family Tradition (short story)

November 24, 2016

I slip the Polamalu jersey over my shoulders, and head downstairs to help my step mom with the mashed potatoes.  My father has a wonderful habit of gifting me jerseys of players right before they retire, but Polamalu will always be one of my favorite Steelers, so I’m not mad about it.

I was raised on Steeler football.  It never mattered that I was a girl, or what age I was, Sunday’s were dedicated to the black and gold.  My house sung with choirs of jeers and cheers.   The terrible towels (one for all three of us), danced with pride as our team won championships.  Our priest would even finish his homily early, because he knew that people would leave to watch kickoff.  He would end with a prayer for “our boys.”  I was raised to have pride in my city, pride in my country, pride in my Irish heritage, but most importantly pride in my family.

My family starts to filter into our townhome, which sits in the outer boroughs of Pittsburgh.  A place called Carnegie, with our house sitting next to Scott Township park.  My great grandparents came here from Ireland, and we’ve stayed ever since.  My Uncle Pat struggles with the stairs, because, well he’s a fat man.  His wife has always been an odd ball, they’re the quintessential Walmart people.  My Uncle Charley, and Aunt Sharon are already here, helping my parents get ready.  My Uncle Terry will no doubt arrive during dinner, eccentric as ever, but with the purest love in his heart.

My cousins all come around the same time.  They are a motley crew of characters.  Chucky is a lawyer with a twelve-year long relationship; he proposed to her a week before today.  Tear-Bear is a hefty, scruffy man, with conspiracy theories enveloping his mind.  Right now, he is an active member of the Modern Flat Earth Society, because he believes governments have been lying to us for years.  He saw an article about them a few months ago, and felt the call to join immediately.  Sean is a twenty five year old Sophomore in College, prompted to go back to school after his D.U.I. earlier this year.  Jimmy is a manager of a bar in the college town he refuses to leave.  Tommy is a math teacher in Florida, always offering the shenanigans of his students.  Mickey is a newly awarded social worker, and me? I’m the only girl born in our generation.  An artist supported by the men who have helped shape everything I am.

There is one girl in my Dad’s generation.  One female sibling faced to deal with four boys, in a struggling family, with absent parents.  When I was born, five male grandchildren had already come into the world.  Two months later Mickey was born, then came Joey (the youngest who lives in New York), and our clan was complete.  I’m an only child, but I think it’s because the Universe knew I couldn’t handle brothers, so it gave me cousins. 

Thanksgiving dinner is still cooking, so we sit around my father’s prized possession: the 80” Samsung TV, mounted on the wall in our living room.  I have to admit it freaked me out the first time I watched a show on it.  The picture is so clear, the people look like they’re in your living room, which is just not my cup of tea.  Especially when I love zombie movies, but would very much like them to stay on a screen. 

The Steelers have a game today against the Colts, and my entire family is dressed in black and gold.

“Hey big B, did you know the kids all got matching tattoos?” My father asks my Uncle Pat.

“No way?” Uncle Pat asks.

“Yea, they all went together a few weeks ago,” interrupts Aunt Sharon.

“What did yinz get?” Uncle Pat asks.

“A Celtic knot,” Tommy answers.

“Yep, everyone except me,” says Chucky.

“Cause you didn’t want it,” I say.

“I didn’t get invited,” Chucky says.

“Your shit’s beat man, just accept it. Everyone was invited,” I yell.

“Well no one told me,” Chucky says.

“Alright, well I just thought one of the older boys told you! I only mentioned it to Mickey and Sean, and then all of a sudden Jimmy, Tommy, and Tear-Bear all said they were coming.  Hold on, would you have even gotten it if we invited you?” I ask.

“Nah, I wouldn’t have,” Chucky says, smiling.

“Fuck you,” I say.

“Love you too,” he says.

“Hey Sharon, even the kids know Fuck you is Gaelic for I love you,” my dad chimes in.

“Wonder how they figured that one out Tommy,” she rolls her eyes.

“Alright, shut up, or we’re gonna miss kick off,” my step mom sings.

During the first quarter, I was in the kitchen making salad for dinner.  I was listening to the game, as much as I could.  By the end of the first quarter Steelers are leading 14-0.  I am now done with preparing the side dishes, and go to sit and enjoy the game with my family.  The moment I sit down:

“Touchdown Colts!”

“Mary Kathleen get back in the kitchen!” My father yells, not missing a beat.

“What are you talking about?” I ask.

“You jinxed us, get your ass back to where you were.”

“You cannot be serious,” I say.

“Get back there,” says Uncle Pat.

“Mare Go!” Says Mickey.

“Dude, go,” says Sean.

“Oh my God, fine,” I say retreating to the island on the opposite wall of the TV.  I wait a few minutes then ask, “Can I come in yet?”

“No,” they yell in unison.

“It’s not even a home game! It’s not me,” I laugh.

“Well they’re winning now,” my cousin Chucky retorted.

“For Pete’s sake,” I say rolling my eyes and accepting my fate.  

That day I helped the Steelers win the game from 360 miles away, just by sitting at my island.

November 27, 1994

My father sits watching the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Oakland Raiders, with a five-month-old baby wrapped in his arms.  My grandfather sits next to him, sharing his quieted enthusiasm for the game.  Gary Anderson is about to kick for a field goal.

“Oh, he’s got this,” my Dad says.

“You jagoff, you just jinxed him,” my Pappy says as Anderson misses the field goal.

“Shit, I’m sorry Dad.”

Pappy just shakes his head.

“Seriously?” my Mom chimes in.

“What?” Pappy asks.

“The game’s being played one thousand miles away, and you think you have some type of bearing on it at all.”

My Pappy says nothing, but gives her a look that says, “You’re never gonna get it.”

A few years later my parents decided to divorce.  There were so many signs telling them that they weren’t meant for each other, but my grandfather swears that that day he knew she wasn’t right for him.

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